Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville is leaving his long-held post to become the city’s planning director.
Mayor Don Plusquellic made the announcement Monday.
Sommerville will take over the mayor’s Cabinet position Jan. 1.
Council members will select his replacement in Ward 3, where he has served since being elected in 1987.
Within hours of the appointment, council voted to name Ward 10 Councilman Garry Moneypenny as president. Sommerville, who stepped down from the leadership post Monday night, had been council president for about 14 years. He plans to leave council at the end of the year.
The move inside City Hall comes amid a series of Cabinet shifts made by Plusquellic in the past week.
Sommerville replaces John Moore, who last week was tabbed as the city’s service director.
Former Service Director Rick Merolla was promoted to Plusquellic’s chief of staff and deputy mayor for administration. He replaced Dave Lieberth, who retired last week.
Plusquellic said he began formulating changes in his Cabinet earlier this year when Lieberth first announced plans to retire.
The mayor said he approached Sommerville about the Cabinet position because of his years of work with the city, his business acumen and his efforts in economic development from Akron to China.
Hiring Sommerville, the mayor said, is consistent with his past hires of advancing qualified civil service workers upward. There was no need to conduct a wide search, he said.
Sommerville’s new salary will be $122,865. His salary as council president was $42,474 annually.
“I’ve done two national searches in my career, and neither one turned out wonderful,” Plusquellic said. “This is what I’ve done in the past. Half or more of my Cabinet are former civil servants. I watch them over time, I see them, and then I move them up. I want them to look at this as more governing than politics.”
In an interview after the announcement, Sommerville said his years of experience on City Council, coupled with his nearly 40 years of operating his own small business, make him qualified to head the planning department.
His daughter, Margo, will now “be the face” of the funeral service Sommerville started in 1978 in West Akron.
Sommerville said he intends to tour the city in the next several months, meeting with council members in their wards and talking to business owners and residents about their needs and wants.
The planning department handles residential and business zoning laws and development. Part of the job also involves seeking federal grant money for local projects.
“It’s my years on council, my being in business 34 years, and I understand the problems that business people go through dealing with the city on development issues, I understand how things work and [that] makes me more than qualified,” he said.
Sommerville declined to endorse anyone to take over his council presidency or his Ward 3 seat.
He acknowledged that the new position in City Hall will nearly triple his government salary while also increasing his government pension but Sommerville said that was never a consideration for taking the job.
His pension will be based on an average of his five highest-paid years.
“I’m sure it will change [my pension] but I don’t know by how much,” he said. “I haven’t even asked.”
He deflected potential criticism over his hiring by those who will say it is a reward for his loyalty to Plusquellic.
“People will say what they want to say, but my record on council and in business speaks for itself in what I’ve done for the community and I think people will see that,” he said.
Plusquellic further defended Sommerville’s hiring in anticipation of complaints that the hire was a political favor to his longtime ally.
“They can say what they want, but there’s no one more qualified for the position than Marco,” he said.
Phil Trexler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330 996-3717.